September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
No matter the reason, Lapp Valley Farm at New Holland was one of the favorite stops on Minnesota Milk Producers' Pennsylvania Dairy Tour early in April. Members of the group were pretty unanimous in agreeing that the farm's homemade ice cream was some of the best they'd ever tasted.
Lapp Valley Farm, owned and operated by a Mennonite family in southeastern Pennsylvania, has been making and marketing its own products since Benuel Lapp took an ice cream making course at Penn State in the mid-1970s.
Benuel's first production facility used a hand crank machine and was located in the upper level of the farm's barn. The current facility was built in 2001. According to Benuel's son, Dave Lapp, the equipment and building cost close to $1 million, even though the family bought used equipment.
Though the farm is located off the beaten path, customers from near and far find their way to the farm's retail store. There they can purchase 16 flavors of ice cream, milk shakes, milk, chocolate milk, butter, cheese and eggs. The farm's delicious ice cream can also be purchased at Kitchen Kettle Village in nearby Intercourse.
The farm is an animal lover's ice cream destination-not only for its food products, but also for the chance to wander the farm to watch milking and feeding, observe ice cream making, play with cats and dog, and watch peacocks strutting across the yard. It's a trip back in time in a way-but with modern equipment.
Hormone-free milk produced by the farm's 75-cow Jersey herd is processed and sold only on the farm.
"We're not Grade A here," Dave Lapp said. "The barn is, but the processing plant isn't. We only have to go Grade A if we ship across state line. We're up to the standards, but we don't have to do the paperwork."
The farm and plant are state inspected every month and the milk is produced under strict sanitary conditions.
Processing is done three days a week-Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
About 300 to 400 gallons of fluid milk are sold through the retail store every day.
"We do close to 1,000 gallons of ice cream a week in the summer," Lapp said. "Milk and ice cream work well together. We take the whole milk down to 3.6 percent fat from 5.2 percent."
In addition to the whole milk, the farm sells 1.5 percent milk, skim milk, and chocolate milk in gallon and half-gallon plastic bottles. Chocolate is also sold in pints. Whole milk cost $3.75 a gallon; 1.5 percent, $3.50; skim, $3.25; and chocolate, $4.25 when the group visited the farm. All milk is homogenized.
Jersey milk is approximately 20 percent higher in protein and 15 percent higher in calcium than the average product on the market.
Lapp reported that low fat milk is the biggest seller, followed by whole, then skim. At this time, labels are printed on the cap, but Lapp expects that to change.
Ice cream is sold by the gallon ($8.50), half gallon ($4.50), and pint ($2.89). Butter is sold in 16-ounce containers and five-pound rolls.
The retail store is open until sunset and even has a drive-through window.
The farm's 75 Jerseys are housed in tiestalls, but milked in a double-six herringbone parlor. Milking is done twice a day. No hormones are used to increase milk production.
Replacements are raised on the farm, with a large inventory in the heifer barn when the Minnesota group visited.
"We haven't used sexed semen, but I'd like to use it on the top half of the herd," Dave said. "Dad feels we should cross the lower part of the herd with beef. We used to sell the bull calves, but we've started to keep them-we have a little more land now."
Lapp said that rye is seeded after harvest and some grazing is done in fall and spring. Corn is usually planted the end of April, into May, but Pennsylvania is having a late spring, just as Minnesota is. Dry shelled corn is stored in a silo and electric motors are used on the farm.
While the Lapps are Mennonite, their herdsman, Merv, and other employees are Amish.
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